Since the potbellied pig first came into the USA in the mid-1980s, it has been a struggle to educate veterinarians, pet owners, and animal sanctuaries about the special needs and health care these wonderful pets require. In most areas around the country, they are classified as exotic and, although the number of exotic veterinarians is increasing, a surprising few are knowledgeable or interested in working with pet miniature pigs.
For the right people, pet pigs make wonderful pets but for others, they become a nightmare. You should do your homework of pros & cons first before getting one and be sure it is the pet for you as it is a long-term commitment and they will depend upon you. Below please read the pet pig facts and care FAQs that every potential pig owner should know.
What Exactly Is A Potbellied Pig?
The potbellied pig (also called Vietnamese Potbellied pig or Chinese Potbellied Pig) is one of the numerous breeds of “miniature” pigs. The breed originated in Southeast Asia and they were first imported into the United States in 1985, bred, and sold as pets. They are typically small, short-legged pigs with erect ears and straight tails with tasseled ends. They have a pronounced “potbelly” and a slightly swayed back.
They can range in weight from 40-50 pounds to well over 200 pounds at maturity. They have short, stiff bristles for hair, grow longer coats in the fall, and shed (blow) their coats in the summer. The predominant color is black, but crossbreeding with other miniature pig breeds has resulted in white pigs as well as various other black and white and even gray combinations.
What Is A Miniature Pig?
The term “miniature pig” is a term used to describe “small” mature pigs. Miniature pigs are generally considered to be about 1/10 the size of a commercial farm pig. Given that farm pigs can approach and even exceed 1,000 pounds when full-grown, it is obvious to see that the term “miniature” is both relative and very subjective. Keep in mind that weight is often not the best way to describe a pig.
Pigs are very solid and “hard-bodied”. It does not take a very “big” pig to weigh 100 pounds. It is often best to describe a pig in terms of size, not weight. In dealing with inexperienced pig people we often ask them to describe the size of their pig in relation to the size of a dog. Most people can relate to and visualize the size of a dog better than they can a pig.
What Is A Teacup Or “Micro” Miniature Pig?
Many breeders are frantically trying to breed smaller and smaller potbellied pigs in hopes that the smaller size will attract more buyers. We have investigated and seen numerous pigs advertised as “teacup” or “micro-mini” pigs. In virtually every case what we have found was a normal potbellied pig that has been chronically underfed and malnourished in an attempt to keep it small. This information has been verified with numerous other sanctuaries and knowledgeable pig people.
In the few instances where a very small (under 20 pounds) pig has been bred, it has been the result of inbreeding or very concentrated cross-breeding. These pigs tend to be sickly and unhealthy pigs with a myriad of health problems and very short life spans. At the present time, and to our knowledge, the teacup or micro-mini pig does not exist, nor has anyone successfully bred a healthy and normal pig this size. We are certain, however, that the quest by breeders to breed this highly desirable and highly marketable pig will continue.
Do Miniature Pigs Make Good Pets?
Pigs are wonderful and smart pets, but you need to think carefully before buying them because they do not always remain little piglets, they require a lot of care, they can make a huge mess in the apartment when bored or left unattended. For most of the time during the day, the piggy wonders what you can sweat, what drawer or open cabinet to open, and what to take out of it.
They are certainly not suitable for small block flats. I did not discourage the purchase of pigs, but we must remember that the animal attaches much to its owner, and the donation to guilty someone when we get bored or when we cannot cope with care is harming it and condemning it to an uncertain fate.
What Is The Full-grown Size Of Mini Pigs?
Vietnamese pigs, which reach up to 70 kg (i.e. the size of a large dog), can be purchased in many places. You can order them at better pet stores. But you have to remember that they are definitely too big for an average apartment, they are suitable for a house with a garden.
Micro-pigs reaching about 20 kg are much more expensive. Mature micro pigs grow to be approximately 48 cm and numerous breeders and buyers have told me that size is the smallest they’ve ever seen.
How Long Does It Take For A Baby Pig To Grow To Full Size?
Pigs grow until they are 3 years old.
How Can I Be Sure Of How Big A Piglet Will Get?
You can’t be sure and if the size is a factor then a miniature pig is not for you. Consider getting a dog or cat.
How Long Do Micro Pigs Live?
A miniature pig’s life expectancy is twelve and fifteen years.
Male Vs Female Micro Pigs As Pets?
All my male pigs are desexed by the vet at 6 weeks old and ready to go to their new homes a couple of days later. My female pigs are desexed around 8 weeks of age(depending on their size) and go to their new homes 2 weeks later.
I do not believe there is any difference between a little girl or boy pig when they are desexed. Having them desexed makes them a constant loving, gentle pet. I have both desexed boys and girls that are a few years old that I have kept monitoring their behavior.
What Are The Different Colors Of Mini Pigs?
Oh, how do I start? Several common patterns are stripes and spotted ones. Colors include; apricots, gingers, tans, browns, blacks, and whites.
How Old Does A Female Pig Have To Be To Breed?
I will not start breeding any of my females until they are at least 15 months old. I have heard and seen other breeders breeding with females as young as 7 months. This is detrimental to their health and to the unborn babies.
How Many Litters Can A Pig Have Per Year?
A pig can have 2 and a half litters per year but mine usually have 1 and a half a year.
Can You Bottle Feed A Mini Pig?
I do not see any reason to take a baby from its mother to feed it a bottle. You don’t do this with a pup or any other animal and mum’s milk is always the best.
Weaning Piglets: When Do Piglets Start Eating Solid Food?
My baby pigs are weaned when they are 4-5 weeks old.
What To Feed A Mini Pig?
My mini pigs are fed a mixture of grass, vegetables, and mixed grain which is required to keep them healthy, happy, small, and very healthy litters of babies.
A pig needs a well-balanced diet. This includes:
- Vegetables (No corn, potatoes or peas) and only a little fruit as treat, never banana or avocado
- You can feed your baby an 18% protein DRY dog food up till your baby is 3 months old only never tin dog or cat food
- Good quality, low protein, low fat, mix grain
- Fresh grass
- Constant supply of fresh water
You don’t feed mini pigs grain that is produced for large piggeries that are breeding their pigs for the table. You also don’t feed them any type of meat, sugary fruit, bread, or any other processed food.
You don’t starve pigs to keep them small this is very cruel.
What Not To Feed Mini Pigs?
- Meat of any description including fish, poultry, cattle, sheep and any processed meat
- Pig pellets or food make for pigs ( these are designed to put size and weight on fast)
- Tin dog and cat food
- Rice or pasta
- Dairy products
- Cakes and any sweet things
- Chook food and never allow them to eat poultry droppings or eggs
What Animals Can Live With Pet Pigs?
Pigs are very sociable animals. They will live quite happily with any other pets you may have. Mine live with cattle, horses, dogs, sheep, alpacas, and poultry.
How To Take Care Of Mini Pigs When You First Take Them Home?
I recommend you put him/her into a small, warm, quiet area where he/she will become accustomed to the new surroundings, smells, other pets, and new people. For the first few days when you are feeding him pat her while he/she’s eating and slowly introduce him/her to the rest of the family.
Sit on the floor with your baby and offer her/him some fruit and let him come to you
How To Prepare Home For Pet Pigs?
This all will depend on if you want your new pet to live in the house or outside. If you want him/her to live in the house let him/her be able to go outside via a doggy door or similar. If you want your new pet to live outside he/she will require a large run with a warm shelter from the elements. You can use blankets or straws for their bedding.
They MUST be kept warm in winter and cool in summer. A unit or townhouse is not suitable for a mini pig.
Do Pigs Need Special Bedding?
All pigs need some sort of bedding. If outside, they need hay or straw and if inside, blankets. They love to make their beds and will sometimes shred them so best to buy at yard sales and thrift stores. Just be sure to wash these items before giving them to the pig for his bed.
Do I Need A Fenced Yard For My Pig?
Fenced backyards are recommended so that the pig can have some outside time which they all need. If not, you should have a pen just for them. An easy pen to build is out of “hog panels” which come in 16 ft. sections so that four of them will make a good size pen for one or two pigs to loaf around in. Don’t forget they will also need a shelter of some type to get in out of the elements such as rain, sun, snow, etc.
All pigs need outside time. Time to be just a pig, to root and lay in the sun. The vitamin D they get from the sun is great for their skin. Just be careful they do not sunburn. White pigs have more of a tendency to sunburn than black pigs. Be sure if outside they have shelter and shade and don’t forget the pool. They need exercise and to be able to graze to be healthy. Walks in the parks are great if you don’t have a yard they can graze in.
Can Micro Pigs Be House Trained?
You can train your pig very easily as they go to the toilet in the same spot every time. A kitty litter tray, newspaper, or take their droppings outside and show them outside is where the pig goes to the toilet. My babies have newspapers in the cubby house where they are locked in every night and they always go to the toilet on paper.
Can Miniature Pigs Climb Stairs?
Yes, but remember their bodies are different than dogs, and as they age it gets harder for them to climb stairs. Also, remember that one fall can break their leg. You should have the stairs carpeted or rubberized so they don’t slip.
To train them to do the stairs, use a treat they really love and place it on the stairs so they have to climb to get them. Best to stay behind them in case they get scared or start to fall if they are going up and stay in front if they are coming down. One person I know uses cheese and she has them trained in about ten minutes.
Can You Use A Harness On A Pig For A Walk?
Pigs love going for walks. Plus it is very amusing watching the reactions of other people. To accomplish this put the harness on the pig and let him walk around with it on for a few hours but make sure you keep an eye on him.
The next step is to attach the lead and let him walk with it as well while still keeping an eye on him. After he gets used to having the lead on, you will be able to teach him to walk with the lead.
Can You Bathe A Mini Pig?
Yes, a pig can be bathed and I feel the best way for small ones is in a baby bath that has lukewarm water and wool wash. And rinse them off in lukewarm water.
Can Pet Pigs Get Sunburned?
This is a very commonly asked question. I find that if they have shelter to get away from the elements and they have mud to roll in, it will not be an issue, even for white pigs as this is their natural way to protect themselves from the sun.
Do Pet Pigs Need Worming?
Yes, pigs do need worming on a regular basis. Your vet will supply medication, which can be added to their food.
To Spay Or Not To Spay?
To spay or not to spay?—-that is the question.
Actually, it’s not. Veterinarians generally are first in line to urge spaying and neutering of pet animals, potbellied pigs included. Reasons often given for the necessity of removing the uterus and ovaries include better temperament, eliminating the chance for unwanted and abused piglets, and lessening the possibility of uterine infections and cancer. Huge ovarian cysts and other abnormal growths have been reported in intact potbellied sows.
How Is A Pig With A Broken Leg Able To Function And Also Are There Different Levels Of Pain Management Like In Humans?
I am continuously amazed at the terrible injuries and illnesses that I have seen animals recuperate from with little if any help from us. Their apparent stoicism in the face of great pain is probably the cause of the long-held erroneous belief that many animals don’t feel pain and don’t need pain killers. However, it is an instinctive, protective device for animals to hide their illness or pain so that they do not attract the attention of predators. Fortunately, thanks to the huge expansion of medical knowledge over the last decades, we have a much better understanding of animal (and human) physiology than ever before.
Although animals do not respond to pain as we do, it should certainly come as no surprise that they feel pain! Pain management protocols have been developed for use in animals, but they may not yet be in widespread use. Unfortunately, some of the best pain killers available are narcotic agents. The time-consuming paperwork required in order to keep and use narcotics discourages many small business people like the veterinarian from using them as much as they would like in practice.
I encourage pet owners to be aware that animals probably don’t have the same emotional view of injury or disability as people do. It is their instinct to deal with setbacks and “get on with the business of living”. Witnessing this is something that should inspire us all.
Do Pigs Require A Lot Of Medical Care?
Healthy pigs generally do not require a lot of medical care. However, there are medical issues that you should be aware of BEFORE getting a pig…
Potbellied pigs should be spayed/neutered while young for health reasons and to make better pets. However, even older pigs can be spayed/neutered if the procedure is performed by a competent vet. Also, they should have yearly checkups by a trained veterinary which include hoof and tusk trims (unless you learn to do these yourself). Pigs should be wormed twice a year with either Ivermectin or Dectomax. Both are injectables that you can learn to give yourself or have your vet do it. Both also can be given orally if needed.
Any pig coming into a shelter should be wormed and checked for lice. It’s not unusual for a pig to pick up lice if it has lived in a dirty environment.
How Much Do Baby Pigs Cost As Pets?
It is said that the more a mini-pig costs, the less it becomes an adult. I do not know if there is any truth in that. I have seen prices for mini pigs between US$ 500 – 3500.
I do not recommend buying a cult through an advertisement from an unknown private person. You do not know what kind of pig you get, because everyone is equally small and sweet when they are cubs. Nor do you know how healthy the pig is or where it comes from.
We paid US$ 3500 for our mini pig + US$ 200 for castration and control of a veterinarian.
I think that breeders should pay well for their cubs. In this way, they screen out the unscrupulous buyers who, for example, want to give the pig away as a gift to someone who may not want the pig at all. Unfortunately, it often ends with killing or relocation in those cases. If you are absolutely sure that you really want a pig, then you pay the amount that the breeder requests, as long as it is a reasonable price.
It does not cost much to own a mini pig. We buy cat litter, dog poop bags, and reward food. There will not be much money, especially not in the spring and summer when my mini pig prefers to do his needs outside. In the winter, when he uses the litter box more, garbage collection and sand cost more. If you give your pig special mini-pig feed, it will of course be more expensive than if you, like us, give “compost food”. Feel free to read more under food!
Do You Need Council Permission To Keep A Pet Mini Pig On A Residential Home?
I have found that all councils have different rules regarding keeping a desexed pet mini pig. Some councils believe that if you can keep a dog you are able to keep a pet mini pig. I had one council in South Australia change their rules to allow people to keep a pet mini pig after one of their councilors stayed with some people in N.S.W. over Christmas that has one of my mini pigs.
There was another case in Victoria where one of the councils said no to a lady, but another council 1 street away would permit you to keep one.
I believe that lots of councils don’t know that a true mini pig exists. I would advise you to ask your council about their rulings.
How To Choose The Right Pet Pig Breeder?
A good breeder will select pigs for their size, temperament, and personality. I have bred up to 8 generations and over this time they have become considerably smaller over each generation.
The Australian quarantine department will not allow the importation of any type of pigs into Australia. Reputable breeders have been selective breeding for generations.
Some state in Australia has very strong quarantine laws which require pigs to have up to 3 vet checks.
You should receive these if you are buying a pet pig in Australia
- The compulsory PigPass that every pig in Australia must have when sold.
- The compulsory ear tag that is required for every pig that is sold in Australia
- The Birth Certificate with the baby’s photo, you can change your baby’s name.
- De-sexing Certificate.
- Worming certificate
- Care information Booklet
- The compulsory Quarantine paperwork for some states of Australia.
Please note there are no teacup, micro, potbelly pigs in Australia, there never has been and never will be with our quarantine laws.
Should I Buy From A Breeder Or Adopt My Pig From A Rescue Group Or Sanctuary?
Depends on what you are looking for. If you just want a pet pig, then you should consider adopting from a rescue group or sanctuary. If you want to show for conformation, then you may want to speak with a breeder and buy one that is registered in lineage. If you choose to adopt or buy, just be sure you have done your homework first.
Should I Adopt/purchase A Piglet Or A Full-grown Pig?
There are pros and cons to both options. With a piglet, you have the joy and pleasure of raising the piglet and enjoying it as it goes through the growth and bonding process with you. Baby pigs can be a source of unspeakable joy and laughter. Unfortunately, you have no idea if the piglet has a medical condition or abnormality that may not manifest itself until later in the pig’s life.
You also have no idea how big this little piglet is going to get. Being able to see one or more of the parents is helpful, but not always a reliable gauge as to how large the piglet will be at maturity. Many people deem these to be acceptable risks and prefer a piglet or very young pig. Ensure that the piglet has been properly weaned and not weaned too early. Piglets that are bottle-raised or taken from their mother too early can have behavioral and/or medical problems later on in life as they get a lot of their “pig social skills” from being raised in a litter. They also get a lot of their natural immunities from their mother’s milk.
The normal weaning time for a healthy piglet is 6-10 weeks with 8 weeks being an average. All piglets should be vaccinated at about 4 weeks and males should be neutered at least two weeks before purchase/adoption. Females may be too young to be safely spayed at purchase/adoption so that may be your responsibility if you opt for a female piglet. The breeder or sanctuary staff should have accomplished at least some basic socialization of the piglet so it is at least used to being handled and will not squeal to the point of dangerously stressing the piglet.
With an adult pig, you obviously forego the raising of the piglet into an adult pig. But you get to see a more mature pig and can better judge how social and friendly the pig is before you obtain it. There are many loving, social, and affectionate young and even mature pigs available that were rescued due to circumstances beyond the pig’s control who crave a good home and who make excellent pets. As with piglets, you should be guaranteed in writing that vaccinations/wormings are current and that the pig is sound and healthy.
If the pig was raised as a “pet pig” and the pig was not abused, many sanctuaries are only too happy to be able to place an older pig back into a family environment similar to the one it was raised in. Many former pet pigs have a very difficult time when placed in a sanctuary environment as they have never been socialized to living life as a pig in a herd of other pigs. Adjustment to this life coupled with the grief of losing its lifetime family can cause serious emotional trauma for the rescued pet pig. Adopting a mature pig that desperately needs a home can be a very rewarding experience for you and very good for a lonely and unhappy little pig.
Why Do Pigs Dig Holes?
A pig’s natural instinct is to dig but they can be trained to have their own special area for digging. While I have said in the past that putting a nose ring on a pig must hurt and take its natural instincts away, I have found by experience that if the nose ring is fitted by a qualified veterinarian, your pig will not suffer in any way and it still enjoys grazing, keeping everybody happy.
Is It True Pet Pigs Can Become Aggressive?
To understand why the term aggression doesn’t fit our pet pig, we have to understand the pig. We have to get to know and appreciate where the pig is coming from with his attitude. Pigs are herd animals and within each herd is a hierarchy or pecking order. If you watch the movie, “The Joy of Pigs,” you will note that in herds a female will rule most of the time. You will also learn that when the “alpha pig” gets older and/or sick, they will lose their place and move down in the hierarchy. Each place within that order has to be earned and then protected, or else it changes. Once pigs have set the order they live happy and contented lives and will follow the leader and those above them.
Now we bring these pigs into our homes and change their whole environment. We actually become their herd and if we are not careful they will take over as the “top hog” and they will act out within that order. This is especially true of pigs that are loners within the home. Usually, if there is a second pig or more, they will settle the hierarchy among themselves, leaving humans to be humans. It is why we advocate that new pig owners adopt two pigs in a relatively close time.
Now a person who understands the hierarchy in pigs will hold his place as a human and place the pig as a pig. This order has to be set and maintained from the very beginning. It is for this reason that we suggest to pig owners that they train their pigs to do simple tricks. It’s not for the fun of it but rather that the pig learns to obey and realizes the human is in complete control. Once the pig learns this, he is a well-adjusted and happy pet to live with. This means never letting him tell you when he wants to eat, sleep or that he doesn’t want strangers in HIS home.
Another reason for a pig to act aggressively is because of the pig’s strong emotional being. He is an animal that likes consistency and he does not like change. So when a pig has lived in a home environment and then discarded, he becomes scared and confused and very fearful. In rescuing pigs we see two things happen to pigs that are discarded. They become angry and/or depressed and sometimes both simultaneously.
Even pigs that have come out of abusive homes, still don’t like the change. He may have been abused, but it was the only home and family he knew. Most of the time with a lot of tender loving care, the pig can be turned around. Some just take longer than others. But does this mean we want to label them as aggressive? If we do, then we have placed the label on all of them and in the end, more harm will have been done to a much-loved pet.
Richard & Laura Hoyle of Mini-Pigs, Inc. said, “In 15 years we have never seen an aggressive pig. Yes, we have seen scared pigs, abused pigs, spoiled pigs, and emotionally/physically deprived pigs, but never one that was purely ‘aggressive’.
“Pigs react to their environment and to things that they perceive as threats. This is not aggression and always has a root cause somewhere. Especially in rescues we often do not know much, if anything at all, about the pig’s history or past life. It would be easy to write off biting, head swinging, and butting as ‘aggression’, but it is not that simple.
“Over the years we have learned, more and more, to look at things from a pig’s perspective. We call it ‘learning to think like a pig.’ If you take the time to watch, listen and learn from the pigs in your care, you will slowly begin to understand how a pig thinks – and what it is and is not capable of. One of the things they are not capable of is ‘aggression’ – especially not the way you have it defined.
“We have a number of pigs here that get along beautifully in their herds and in a pig environment but who are still ‘aggressive’ towards humans. The answer here is simple, the pig was badly abused by humans and sees all humans as a threat and reacts accordingly. Some of these pigs will ‘come around’ over time and others will not – but they are not aggressive pigs – just pigs reacting to years of abuse at the hands of their human ‘caretakers’.”
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